Ex-Lakers Trainer Gary Vitti Fondly Remembers Kobe
Updated: Mar 6, 2020
Former Los Angeles Lakers trainer Gary Vitti had seen Kobe Bryant grow right before his eyes. Vitti was an instrumental guiding force during Bryant’s legendary 20-year career in the NBA.
“All athletic trainers have a special relationship with their athletes,” Vitti recently told Off The Glass. “But because Kobe was so young when he came in and played for so long, our relationship became extra special. Our joke became I watched him grow up, and he watched me grow old.”
Now, Vitti wouldn’t be able to watch Bryant grow old.
Bryant died early this year in a tragic helicopter crash that left the basketball world devastated. Kobe was 41. Vitti is still mourning this loss.
When Bryant entered the league at 18 years old, Vitti already had a dozen years under his belt as a Lakers trainer. He watched legends come and go such as Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Shaquille O’Neal, among others.
But Bryant holds a special place in Vitti’s heart. In 2016, they retired from the Lakers together.
When asked what was his favorite Kobe moment, Vitti had a hard time picking one.
“Too many [to mention] but our last game together was special...when the game was over he came and hugged me.” Vitti said.
Kobe won five championships, two Finals MVP, and the 2009 regular season MVP during his illustrious career. He credited the long-time Lakers trainer for much of his success on the court.
After his final game against their rival Boston Celtics in April of 2016, the 18-time All-Star spoke glowingly about Vitti’s impact on his career.
“I was just really happy to see the [standing] ovation that he (Vitti) received.” Kobe said. “Everybody knows about the great players that Lakers have had but none of us would be able to perform the way we performed without him. It’s not just possible. He’s the guy behind all of it. What he meant to my career is [something that] I can’t really put it into words.”
The relationship between Bryant and Vitti did not end after their 20-year partnership with the Lakers.
“We remained close.” Vitti said. “He sent me a video of Gigi using one of his patented moves.”
Gianna Bryant, who also died during that fatal crash, made a Kobesque stepback jumper in the video which came with a caption Kobe wrote, “Anything in this look familiar?”